Which Putah Creek Composition?

This morning I had the pleasure of searching for a new composition to paint along Putah Creek in Winters, California. Originally, the area was the territory of the Patwin people, a large complex society mostly wiped out by disease upon contact with the first explorers, and later by settlers, discrimination and oppression. It was a sad time in American history to say the least.  As I walk the banks I can only imagine the paradise it must have been. I’ve been told the wetlands was as wide as 5 miles across in some areas!

Today the tightly controlled stream in Northern California is 85-miles long, and you could easily throw a rock across it, at most any point. It’s headwaters are in the Mayacamas Mountains, a part of the Coastal Range, continues thru a couple of lakes, diversions and dams eventually fading somewhere along the Yolo County bypass.

So why am I painting this area..  because of the restoration efforts along the banks by the Putah Creek Council based in Winters. As I strolled along a well beaten path, I noticed native plants being added, like cottonwoods, mug wort, wild grape, oaks, willows, wild rose, redbud, bunch grasses and more. (I also noticed some really bad invasive plants that are not native to the area, but we’ll leave that for another day).

Native flora is very important to this landscape for so many reasons. The reasons that are obvious is their adaptation to California’s hot dry climate and then there are a few reasons, not so obvious.  Some plants depend on California’s fire season, for seed germination, a natural adaptation.  Another not so obvious reason that could surprise you, is the fact, that local wildlife, has evolved over thousands of years eating certain foods. They utilize certain plants for building nests and constructing homes. And when those plants are not available, what may appear to be a healthy environment to you and I, could be a complete desert to local wildlife!

Here’s where I would like your help. Below are two images I find exciting. The left image illustrates some gorgeous bunch grasses in the foreground, and the image on the right, of course, has the sparkly water. Also, I would be standing in the creek while painting the scene on the right, and that is pretty fun.

Please let me know in the comments below which you would prefer to see in tomorrow’s plein air painting?

Left or right? There is no wrong answer, so feel free pick which ever calls to you the most.


Protect Your Fruit Trees From Sunburn During The WINTER!

Turns out it is very important to protect your fruit trees from sunburn during the winter! One reason is the trees have no leaves or very few to protect it’s trunk from the sun. Secondly, California’s foothills are approximately 1,500 feet in elevation making it that much closer to the sun’s rays.

This is the mixture I use on the trees at the Rita Alvarez Artist Retreat.

50/50 mixture of water and white latex paint. Super easy to do!


This is how most of my trees looked before I started. They still had some paint left from when I painted them last year. You can see another year without fresh paint and the trunk would most likely suffer at least some cracking allowing insects and disease to penetrate the trees outer defense system.

.  Before

This is after I painted the tree with the 50/50 water, latex paint mixture.


Here is an example of a fruit tree that has not been protected from the winter sun. The damage to the trees outer layer, it’s protective layer, makes it vulnerable to insects and disease. The best cure for disease is PREVENTION. So protect your trees and prevent or reduce the need for insecticides on your trees and eventually on your table!


I would also like to mention the above process protects a tree from sunburn but not from rodents or rabbits that could eat around the tree’s root ball also causing a lot of damage to your tree. Therefore, adding a tree guard could also be very useful in raising healthy trees.

Overall it was an exceptionally beautiful winter day hanging out in the orchard. The wildlife was busy, squawking, chirping, ravens zooming about in the sky… I’m so glad I didn’t miss it. What a day!

I hope this post provides information and inspiration to anyone in need. If you would like to know more on how you can help this and other projects at the artist retreat please go to Retreat tab above or contact the artist.  Thank you!

Drawing the Bobcat


This is a study in graphite of a gorgeous creature that lives here in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. The Bobcat, Lynx rufus never ceases to amaze me when it pops out of a bush or strolls across my front yard. I love so many of it’s physical attributes like it’s tufted ears and bob tail as well as it’s hunting adaptability and just plain coolness.

While looking at the Bobcat I realized how intelligently designed it’s fur is, from the speckled pattern that breaks up it’s outline, to longer hairs under it’s belly, and behind it’s legs to wick away moisture. I also noticed thicker hairs on different parts of the body for temperature control. The entire shoulder, arm and paw including the hind haunches are built for the pounce and subduing it’s prey. These may seem like observations that a biologist would make but this is also how an artist sees and thinks when making art.

Here is how I started my drawing. I went from a quick gesture drawing to a precise line drawing that accurately described the form before I allowed myself to even begin rendering the hair and the easily identifiable characteristics. I also check and correct the outline drawing using Unit and Angle measuring techniques until the form can no longer be corrected. “The longer you stay in this stage the more convincing your drawing will be.” This is a first and important step in all of my studies. I hope this has added a little art to your life, helped inspire you to look at and appreciate nature and love the bobcat!

I plan to share more drawing tips in future posts.

This drawing was made from the photography by: DeBold, Don. Calero Creek Bobcat. Digital image. https://www.flickr.com/people/28156071@N00. Don DeBold, 1 Dec. 2007. Web. 20 Dec. 2015.

Quail Study in Graphite

Quail Study in graphite on toned paper, 9 x 12 by Rita Alvarez , after photograph by Kim Cabrera
Quail Study in graphite on toned paper, 9 x 12 by Rita Alvarez , after photograph by Kim Cabrera

This is my first study of a quail. I learned a lot already and can’t wait until drawing these gorgeous little birds becomes second nature. They will embellish my future paintings of the Sierra Foothills along with poppies and granite rock outcroppings. I love the California landscape!